Quote: "The policy problem for government is whether to raise the
protection standard for all victims of domestic violence or raise
protection for a specific sub-group. I've got my doubts about the
effectiveness of the latter approach."
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
2 December 2009
Report dispels link between domestic violence and murder
By Joel Gibson, Legal Affairs
It is a myth that most domestic murderers are known to authorities, with 74 per cent of them having no contact with police for violent incidents in the year before they kill and 48 per cent no contact for five years prior.
Even fewer victims - only 10 per cent - were involved in a recorded incident of domestic violence with their eventual killer in the year before their death, a Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report says.
The bureau's director, Dr Don Weatherburn, said the findings made it difficult for authorities to prevent murders in the home, which are the most common killings in Australia.
"The policy problem for government is whether to raise the protection standard for all victims of domestic violence or raise protection for a specific sub-group. I've got my doubts about the effectiveness of the latter approach."
The report also suggests that recent powers given to the NSW coroner to investigate all domestic violence-related deaths could be fruitless.
"For me, the idea that the coroner will be able to sort through the deaths and identify early warning signs for who is going to end up a victim is now open to question," Dr Weatherburn said.
"You can identify risk factors for a burglar such as drug use but it's very difficult to do for domestic homicide."
The bureau analysed the 215 domestic murders in NSW from 2003 to 2008 and found the rate was steady.
The number of male and female victims was roughly the same, and 43 per cent of the murders were committed by intimate partners.
More than three-quarters of offenders were male and one-third may have had a history of mental illness, which Dr Weatherburn said showed domestic homicide was generally not a manifestation of mental illness. More common was consumption of alcohol by offenders before the crime.
Child killings were frighteningly high, with 17 per cent of victims less
than five years old and one in five killed by their parents.
Stabbing was the cause in more than one-third of cases, and of the 207
offenders, 13 per cent committed suicide after the murder and 10 per cent
For every victim of domestic homicide, there are more than 620 recorded
incidents of domestic assault.